On 1 November 1944, 733 children, mostly
orphans and half orphans, arrived in Wellington Harbour.
Some 100 adults - teachers, doctors and administrators -
accompanied the group to Pahiatua where a camp was
established to give a temporary home for the children.
The entrance to the new home read
"Polish Childrens Camp in Pahiatua".
As far as the children were concerned this was their
A number of books have been written about the
children of Pahiatua but the main one, "The
Invited", written by their teacher and the Principal
of the Boys' Primary School Krystyna Skwarko is being
located on this web-site through the kindness of Krystyna
Tomaszyk, the daughter of Krystyna Skwarko.
Also included on this site are photographs of
the Pahiatua camp and the children. These photographs
were assembled and children identified by Joseph and
Stefania Zawada of Wellington., both of Pahiatua Camp.
It is interesting to note that in 1947 and
again in 1948 the Warsaw regime (the Communist regime
dominated by USSR) demanded that the children be returned
to Poland, but the New Zealand Government refused. Prior
to the request, the Consul General, Dr K. A. Wodzicki, in
co-operation with the Polish authorities in London (the
then Internationally recognised seat of the Polish
Government) and the New Zealand Government had formed
Guardianship Council for the Polish children in New
Zealand. This council which comprised of three New
Zealanders and five Poles was approved by the highest
court in New Zealand in May 1945. The council was
presided over by Dr J. P. Kavanagh, Bishop of Dunedin.
Following formation of the council, the
children were prepared for their permanent life in New
Zealand. The teaching of English was intensified and some
were given the opportunity to enter private Catholic
schools in New Zealand Accommodation was provided in
boarding houses in Wellington and Hawera.
Now in 1999, 55 years after their arrival, the
Pahiatua children can look back with pride at their
From personal knowledge and observation it is my view
- They all retained their Polishness, their language and
sense of their history - truly a remarkable achievement.
- They all retained their Catholic religion with special
devotion to Our Lady, the Queen of Poland
- They all retained a special bond and concern for one
another - one large family.
They all became good citizens of New Zealand,
contributing significantly to the development of
economic, cultural and religious life of the country,
more than repaying the people of New Zealand for their
generosity in 1944.
The Pahiatua children, in reality, were not
immigrants to this country. They were guests, invited for
a short but undetermined period of time in 1944.
The plan was for them to go back home to Poland, but
because that part of Poland where the children had come
from, Eastern Poland, was incorporated into the USSR
following the Yalta Agreement, they had no home to go
back to. Their homes and possessions were confiscated,
their families were either murdered or transported to
Russia, so there simply was no point going back to a
place that had ceased to exist. The New Zealand Government gave the children permanent
residency and many became N.Z. citizens.
(known in Pahiatua Camp as Jan Wojciechowski)
Auckland, New Zealand
Books by Pahiatua Children
by Krystyna Skwarko
The Story of 733 Polish Children who grew up in
Millwood Press, Ngaio, Wellington 1974
A Strange Outcome - The Remarkable Survival Story of a Polish Child
by John Roy-Wojciechowski
and Allan Parker
Penguin Books Auckland, NZ; 2004
Order a copy of the book
interview with the Author
short excerpt (p. 58)
An Unforgettable Journey
by Maria van der Linden
Dunmore Press Palmerston North, New
Other books on the
related to Pahiatua Children and Polish Emigrants:
Tułacze Dzieci / Exiled Children
internet edition of the
chapter on Pahiatua Children
The Invited by Krystyna Skwarko
Stolen Childhood by Lucjan Krolikowski, Q.F.M.
Conv. (in Polish and English) ISBN:0-9691588-0-7
Isfahan-City of Polish Children by Irena
Beaupre-Stankiewicz and others
ISBN 0 9512550 1 0
Exiled Children (Tułacze Dzieci) by the office
of the President of the Republic of Poland and others.
(In Polish and English).
Individual stories cannot be forgotten, most
of us will never publish our stories and therefore Polish
Heritage Trust has provided facilities for individual
Pahiatua children to write their stories and place them
on a web-site for others to see for their grandchildren
to read and for the rest of the world to remember.
Each family, each child had its own place in life. Each
story is different. Yes they do have a common theme, yes
they do have the same pattern in life - Russian
aggression, hardship in Siberia or Uzbekistan, a period
of reconstruction of life in Persia and Pahiatua camp, a
period of personal and social growth, retirement and
Polish Heritage Trust encourages those stories and will
have them available on this page for all to enjoy.